THIS HOLIDAY is always celebrated on October 12. It is a National Holiday in Spain, known as Fiesta nacional de España.
This national holiday commemorates the exact date when Christopher Columbus first set foot in the Americas.
Italian-born Christopher Columbus who was sponsored by the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, was attempting to find a western sea route to India. He set off from Palos de la Frontera in August 1492 in an attempt to find a western sea route to India. Columbus’ ships had been sailing west for several weeks, when on the morning of October 12, 1492, land was spotted.
The sighting is recorded as having been made by a lookout, but Columbus insisted that he had seen a light from land a few hours earlier, therefore making sure that he was awarded a lifetime pension from the Spanish Royal family for being the first person to spot land.
They then made landfall at an island in the Bahamas, which Columbus named San Salvador, though it’s not clear which island in the Bahamas this actually was.
Columbus’ voyages across the Atlantic Ocean initiated the European exploration and colonization of the Americas. Though Columbus did not actually reach the American mainland until his third voyage in 1498.
Normally National Day is celebrated with a military parade in Madrid.
Apart from the huge parade in the capital, Madrid, there are plenty of other celebrations that take place throughout the rest of Spain.
National Day was first celebrated in Madrid in 1935 and was made an official public holiday in 1981. In 1987, its name was changed to Fiesta Nacional (Spain’s National Day), removing any reference to Spanish colonialism.
The day is also celebrated around the world: in the United States it is known as Columbus Day; Día de las Américas (Day of the Americas) in Uruguay and Belize; Día de la Raza (Day of the Race) in Mexico, Chile and Colombia; and Discovery Day in the Bahamas. While in the United States, Columbus Day is a chance for Italian-Americans to celebrate their heritage.
Though, in much of Latin America, Día de la Raza has come to symbolize the opposite of Columbus Day—a celebration of native cultures and traditions that resisted the arrival of Europeans on American soil.
In some regions of Spain, such as Zaragoza and Aragon, October 12 it’s also the day where the ‘Fiestas del Pilar’ are celebrated in honour of the patron saint of the city, the Virgen del Pilar (Our Lady of the Pillar).